Young elected chief justice of Michigan Supreme Court Fewer judgeships, court consolidations to mark 2011-12 court

By John Minnis

Legal News

Austerity, including fewer judgeships and consolidated courts, will be the hallmark of the 2011-12 Michigan Supreme Court under the direction of Chief Justice Robert P. Young Jr., who was elected by his fellow justices Wednesday, Jan. 5, to lead the newly seated Republican court.

In a statement, Young said his highest priorities will be budgetary and administrative issues.

"The question is how we maintain essential services to the public despite the dire fiscal circumstances threatening state and local governments," he said. "As chief justice, I intend to ensure that the public funds devoted to the judiciary are wisely spent to provide and improve the judicial services our constitution mandates that our citizens receive."

Appointed by Gov. John Engler to the Michigan Supreme Court in 1999, Young was elected to keep the seat in 2002 and re-elected last November.

A Republican chief justice has run the court for 10 out of the past 12 years. Young replaces Chief Justice Marilyn Kelly, who was the only Democrat to lead the court since Conrad Mallett Jr. in 1997. Kelly was named chief justice in 2009 despite a Republican majority then.

Democrats gained a majority on the court when Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm appointed Alton E. Davis to replace Republican Elizabeth Weaver following her resignation last year. The Democrats lost their short-lived majority when Davis failed to win election last November to keep the seat. Republican challenger Mary Beth Kelly won a seat on the court along with Young, who was re-elected.

Justices elect a chief justice on odd-number years following November elections on even-numbered years. The vote tally, though usually predictive, was not released.

Young said budget cutting by the Michigan Supreme Court, which oversees all Michigan courts, will not be enough.

"Frankly," the new chief justice said, "we simply have to reduce the number of judgeships where the workload no longer justifies their continuation. We also have to more aggressively employ court consolidation for greater efficiency. We need to build on our recent successes and continue to extend technology to improve the functioning and the structure of the Michigan court system. There is room for meaningful change and improvement in the third branch of government, even as we do our part to address the state's budget crisis."

Young, a native of Detroit, earned undergraduate and law degrees from Harvard. He began his legal career in 1978 with Dickinson, Wright, Moon, Van Dusen, & Freeman, becoming a partner in the firm in 1982. In 1992, he joined AAA Michigan, serving as its vice-president, corporate secretary, and general counsel.

He was appointed by Gov. Engler to the Michigan Court of Appeals in 1995 and was elected to that court in 1996.

Young, who has served as an adjunct professor at Wayne State University Law School for a number of years, is the author of "Active Liberty and the Problem of Judicial Oligarchy," in The Supreme Court and the Idea of Constitutionalism (Kautz, Melzer, Weinberger & Zinman, Eds., University of Pennsylvania Press 2009). He is a co-editor of Michigan Civil Procedure During Trial, 2d Ed. (Michigan Institute of Continuing Legal Education, 1989) and Michigan Civil Procedure (Michigan Institute of Continuing Legal Education, 1999). He was awarded honorary degrees from Michigan State University and Central Michigan University.

Young has served on the boards of many charitable business and civic organizations, including United Community Services of Metropolitan Detroit and Vista Maria, a resource center for disadvantaged young women and girls. He has also served as a trustee of the Detroit Institute of Children, The Detroit Historical Society, and the Governor's Task Force on Children's Justice Concerning Child Abuse and Neglect. A former commissioner of the Michigan Civil Service Commission, Young was a trustee of Central Michigan University, University Liggett School, and the Grosse Pointe Academy. He is a former chair of the Greater Detroit Chamber of Commerce "Leadership Detroit" program.

Published: Thu, Jan 6, 2011

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